WeirdSpace Digital Library - Culture without borders

Your professional web presence I: Web sites

Country of origin: Denmark Danmark
Available texts by the same author here Dokument

   Have you ever considered your web presence? How you present yourself on the web? Are you some insignificant bleep in the crowd or are you visible? What does your professional web site say about you or your company?
   Surprisingly many people think, that if you just have a web site, the visitors, and thus the turnover, will come all by itself. A couple of pages and perhaps a few pictures, and you are set!
   Today there is nothing new or special about having a web site. Everybody and their grandmother have them, at the time of writing I have seven, and there is about one billion of them in the World. Having a web site does not impress anyone, you need content on the site, to attract customers.

The digital business suit
   Most people are fully aware that clothes and how they are worn have great signal value. You represent an attitude with the way you dress, whether it is the laid back specialist in jeans and an open shirt/T-shirt, or the (ordinary) manager in the dark suit, blue/white shirt and dark tie, or whatever else it might be.
   The web site is a part of your digital business suit. It shows whether you are dressed for the job. If you work in a kitchen your working clothes are different from if you worked in an office or on an oil rig... and you wear and use the clothes the right way, not like someone in a commercial or a Hollywood production. Unfortunately you see a lot of equivalents to The Emperor's New Clothes out there. Or worse yet, web sites that makes the owner appear sloppy and untidy or unreliable and/or inept.

So, why do people visit websites?
   People visit web sites for two reasons: entertainment and/or information. It doesn't matter how nice your personal or company web site looks; No content, no visitors. An add campaign can make visitors go to the site once, but without content, they will exit the site and they will not return.
   Content is king, as they say.
   One of the discussions I've had quite often, with the one in charge of a web site's content (usually the owner), is why there are no visitors on their particular site? They are not found. Not even when someone searches for [insert keyword they think would be obvious].
   The short and unpleasant answer is (usually), that the web site just isn't good enough. Poorly constructed/programmed and/or not enough content. Search engines favor web sites with a lot of content. Put away stupid remarks like "size doesn't matter", search engines don't have a sense of humor. Errors in the code, the search engines are quite lenient towards, but they can be so grievous, that the content appears to be nonsense (or spam) during indexing, and the page is ignored. If you are one of the cool cats who made the entire site in Flash, which was hot around 2000, it is simply a matter of the search engines not being able to index the pages, so here you could write thousands of pages, without getting a single visitor.
   A frequent argument for not writing anything for a site is that they aren't writing anything that haven't been written before by many others, and who wants to read that? Should this be a valid argument, there would only be one retail chain selling Coca-Cola, and we would only have one channel showing news. The new and interesting part is in the angle and presentation of the content.
   Therefore: If you think you have too little traffic on your site, consider whether you actually have any content to go to the site for!

The train of thought
   In the same manner as Content is King, you got the expression Usability is Queen. Have you tried looking at your web site, as someone who's never been there before?
   Does it make sense?
   The Internet is full of web sites, where you look for ages to find what you are looking for. It seems absurd when a production company don't have one or more pages presenting their products, or when there are dead links in the navigation pane. An even more stupid mistake is writing a lot of pages with loads of information, that can't be accessed, because someone forgot to link to the pages.
   Visitors becomes annoyed and frustrated when the pages are a mess to navigate between. Imagine going to a supermarket. It has to make sense when looking for something. It's no use that today the apples are placed with the milk, tomorrow they are next to the candy, maybe they will be placed with the rest of the fruit and vegetables, spread evenly between the electrical appliances.
   Looking unfocused or disorganized is not irrelevant for your web presence.

The unique web site
   Creating web sites by using programs like WordPress is very popular. It has some advantages in being easy to install and ready to start writing your blog, or whatever else you want to do, in a few minutes. For this, there is a large number of templates, some of which are widely used.
   But is the web site unique? And is it necessary having a unique look and feel? The jury is still out on this one, and mot likely there is no definite answer.
   BUT, do consider this: What does it say about you as a company, brand or person, who want to stand out as creative and inventive, if your web site looks like a million other web sites? Putting a new banner picture at the top of the template (the few that manages to do this) is NOT being creative. On the other hand, having a run of the mill web site with unique content that works, is better than having some bungled site because you want to stand out but haven't got the necessary skills as web designer.

Content marketing instead of BUY! BUY! BUY!
   One of the biggest sins for web sites, is the way they assault the visitors, to make them buy something. Consider for a moment what you think about campaigners from various organizations pestering you when you are out shopping or telephone solicitors that just keep on jabbering to make you buy something. You find that pleasant? Nor really, right? Consider if this is the type of site you've got. What is the first thing you meet on the web site? Is it "Welcome, this is out site, here you can read about us, here you can read about our products, en here is the web shop." or is it "HERE'S OUR MOST HYPED PRODUCT... BUY IT... NOW!!!"
   Most people don't think about this, but Google does not run a search engine for a living. They make a living selling adds. The search engine, and whatever other products they have, is the content to draw in the customers. This is called content marketing. Instead of trying to ram the product down the customers throat, they offer a service that makes the customer want to buy something, as they are already there. Facebook is doing the same thing, only here it is a social media for hanging out and having fun. On Facebook the marketing is a bit more aggressive, so here the content marketing becomes more obvious, but for all intents and purposes they do the same as Google: They offer a free service, that draws in visitors, and therefore they have a turnover.

Lost opportunities... perhaps
   So, does you web site use its full potential? Or are you missing orders, job offers, etc. because you are not taking the signal value of the web site seriously?